Michael Clarke believes Australia has put itself in awkward position ahead of the Ashes after the “unbelievable” decision to drop Travis Head for the first Test against India.
Speaking on Sky Sports Radio’s ‘The Big Sports Breakfast’ on Tuesday morning, Clarke said Australia “could have won the series” had it not been for self-inflicted mistakes.
The most glaring being the selectors leaving Head out, who topscored for Australia in the second innings of all three Tests he played, departing for 90 in Ahmedabad.
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“Unbelievable,” Clarke said.
“Has somebody come out and said, ‘We got it wrong’ yet? Everyone came out at the time and said, ‘We made the right decision’, is it still the right decision to have not picked Travis Head in the first Test match?
“Being a selector is a tough gig, don’t get me wrong, but we have to admit we got it wrong in not picking Steve Smith in our Twenty20 World Cup campaign, 100 per cent we got that wrong and 100 per cent we got it wrong not picking Travis Head in the first Test match. So, no coincidence we lost both.
“We lost the T20 World Cup, underperformed, and we had every opportunity when you look at this Test series gone by, no matter how tough the wicket has been. We could’ve won the series. That’s how close it should’ve been.”
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Clarke said there were some “positives” to come out the way Australia improved over time in the four-Test series in the subcontinent.
But that in itself was a lesson as attention turns to the World Test Championship and then, later, England and the Ashes.
“Let’s also see what our preparation is like for that Ashes series, hopefully we’ve learnt from what happened in India as well,” Clarke said.
“Our cricket got better the more we played there, no coincidence.”
Going back to the non-selection of Head in the opening Test though, Clarke suggested it would have been a surprise not just to the 29-ytear-old but his teammates too.
“Can you imagine as well Travis Head, a senior player, he’s captained South Africa, his record in the last 12 months outstanding, No.4 ranked Test batter in the world, imagine the shock he would have got being told he’s not being picked and he’s around the group as well,” Clarke said.
“Everybody would have been going, ‘What has just happened here?’. We shot ourselves in the foot.”
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Head said late last month that he had “robust” conversations with selectors, who ommited him from the first Test primarily due to previous struggles on the subcontinent.
But that had Clarke questioning whether selectors will now opt for a similar attitude towards skipper David Warner, whose struggles in England are well-documented.
“You look silly now,” Clarke said.
“Because all of us past players and fans go, ‘OK. It seems like even if I disagree with the selection or non-selection of Travis Head, I respect they are saying horses for courses’. OK, you’re going to go with that, cool.
“The first Test in England, how do they pick David Warner? How do they justify that if they do pick Dave Warner now?”
For the record, Clarke said he is “100 per cent” behind backing Warner to play in the opening Test against England.
“If he doesn’t perform, then you can drop him,” added Clarke.
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But in general, Clarke said there needs to be more patience with players’ performances in the subcontinent, particularly with those who are new to the conditions.
“It’s so hard [when you first play there],” he said.
“Even the best players in spin, it’s different. It’s a different place to play spin bowling. It takes time to adjust and work out that inconsistent bounce, to work out which shots are appropriate, that variation takes time, you’ve got to give guys an opportunity.
“Even if they started with Travis Head, gave him a couple of Tests and he didn’t perform, the selectors could justify that. But to not pick him in the first Test, it’s exactly what England did with Anderson and Broad when they came to Australia, they just tried to get too funky. Give your best players the first chance.”